The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) held a rally outside the Narrandera Hospital yesterday, demanding better patient to nurse ratios across NSW. Representatives from the NSWNMA agreed that the patient to nurse ratios across NSW were inadequate.
“Why should our postcode mean we’re treated any differently from the city?” said local delegate of the NSWNMA and secretary Linda Sommerfield.
“We’re asking for staff to patient ratios to be the same right across NSW. Why should Sydney get a higher priority? It doesn’t matter if you have a heart attack out here or in Sydney; you still require the same level of care.”
NSWNMA representatives stressed that there was a significant discrepancy in the staffing structure of metropolitan hospitals in comparison to regional hospitals.
“In the major metropolitan hospitals, they have six nurse hours per patient day – it’s quite a convoluted formula,” said NSWNMA organiser Jeff Crebert.
“What we’re after is a simple ratio, which is similar to what they have in Victoria and Queensland. We would like a one to four ratio in all medical, surgical hospitals, including Narrandera. At the moment, the major metropolitan hospitals like Royal North Shore and Westmead, get six nursing hours per patient day for grade A hospitals; in grade B they get five.”
“There are some bigger hospitals like Griffith that have five hours per patient day, but in places like Leeton and Narrandera, they get nothing. It’s pot luck,” Mr Crebert said.
According to Mr Crebert, multi-purpose centres in locations such as Urana and Lockhart are in an even more precarious situation. The NSWNMA members were wearing badges saying ‘1:3 for ED’, due to their call for better ratios in emergency departments.
However, according to Ms Sommerfield, just having a staff member in the emergency department would be a good start for Narrandera.
“With ratios, our ED department is not staffed, it has never been staffed; a nursing staff member is not rostered to the department,” Ms Sommerfield explained.
“We come from the floor down to the emergency department to work. Often the floor is left short. That’s why we’re asking for ratios. We don’t even have one staff member rostered to that area. And they’re working in isolation.”
“We’re here for increasing nursing, and we’re also here to say that violence is not okay to our staff, and to increase security to our hospital,” Ms Sommerfield said. According to Ms Sommerfield, there have been a number of serious incidents in the Narrandera Hospital against the staff.
“We’re rallying the government to look at improved security and an increase in security staff,” Ms Sommerfield said. Currently the Narrandera Hospital has a security officer present for five days a week, Wednesday to Friday.
“They’re not replaced when they go off sick, and not even replaced when they go on annual leave. It’s only a token gesture that they’re giving us five days a week,” Mr Crebert said.
“And of course, this a 24 hour a day, seven days a week service.” Additionally, Ms Sommerfield added, the security shifts were only eight hours.
“We do not have 24-hour policing in this town. Often our next port of call can be the NSW Ambulance office, but often they’re working in towns, or they’ve already taken a transfer out, so they’re not there to back us up either.
“It becomes a real problem. We go down the chain of command of who we’re supposed to call, and often we come against roadblocks,” Ms Sommerfield said.
Three Narrandera Shire councillors, Cr Tracey Lewis, Cr Narelle Payne and Cr Barbara Bryon were also at the rally.
“You’ve got to support it, because there’s no one in emergency. The nurses are being taken from the general wards,” said Cr Payne.
“We know that emergency presentations are increasing. I’m on the local health committee and we know that that’s happening.
“So more and more times nurses are being dragged off the wards and presentations are rising because of circumstances with mental health, the drought, there are drug problems. There’s more and more violence towards nurses and we need that improvement to security.
“Barilaro talks about money into the regions and the regional funds and grants available. But at the same time, the State Government is pulling services out of the regions. If there is a violent incident, who do you phone? We don’t have 24-hour police services, because that’s another arm of government that they’re pulling out of the regional centres.”
Cr Lewis said the problem was a lack of commitment from the State Government to supplying resources.
“I think the government need to stop taking away our services, our nurses, the time that they give; they need to start providing the regional centres with just a little bit more resources,” Cr Lewis said.
“I think the quote of the day was it doesn’t matter what your postcode is, you deserve it. The safety and the security, and the numbers,” Cr Bryon added.
Ms Sommerfield said that the dangers were increasing for nursing staff. “We’re on the two major highways, the Sturt and the Newell. Ice is also an issue in this town and without the 24 hour police backup.
“At the end of the day, we’re your family and friends. We’re your mothers and fathers, your children, your sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles. We need safe ratios for our loved ones,” Ms Sommerfield said.